Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tanner Pearson Is A Must Draft For Jets Brass

Tanner Pearson finished third in OHL scoring with a junior career high 91 points in only his second season.
(Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)

Tanner Pearson was more than Winnipeg Jets first round pick Mark Scheifele's linemate with the surging Barrie Colt's of the Ontario Hockey League this past winter.

And he may not just be another name that can end up having their name on the back of both a Colts and Jets jersey before long - to follow in the likes of Bryan Little and Alexander Burmistrov.

After the Colts finished the 2010-11 OHL season with a dismal 14-49-0-4 record under first year head coach Dale Hawerchuk, Pearson took the reins with Scheifele up with the big club to begin the season and never looked back.

In his second full OHL season, Pearson's offensive totals more than doubled as the Colts found themselves in the thick of a spring playoff run that saw them bow out to in seven games to the Ottawa 67's after taking down Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in round one.

After posting 42 points in his rookie season, Pearson boosted his draft profile by collecting 91 points in 60 games - scoring at a 1.51 points per game pace - while finishing third in OHL scoring behind fellow 2012 NHL Draft classmate Michael Sgarbossa and Los Angeles Kings second round pick Tyler Toffoli.

What makes Pearson interesting on the surface is his connection to Scheifele - who finished fourth on Barrie in scoring with 63 points in 47 games at a 1.34 points per game pace - and Ivan Telegin, another Jets (former Atlanta Thrasher) draft pick.

One reason to shy away from Pearson at this point is his season ending injury that occurred in the Colts season finale against the Brampton Battalion in which the club's top winger broke his right fibula and was forced to miss the playoffs.

Despite losing their leading scorer, the Colts - led by Scheifele (12 points in 13 games) and Telegin (14 points in 13 games) - made the best run they could.

Pearson, who was ranked by Central Scouting at 22nd in their mid-way rankings, slipped to 25th overall in their rankings - still a first round player.

With the ninth overall pick, however, the Jets are faced with a problem if they do indeed show interest in another Barrie Colt prospect.

At 6'0, 192 lbs, Pearson plays not as an elite scoring winger, but more of a gritty winger that makes plays happen when he brings his lunch pail.

Despite his play, his 35 penalty minutes this past OHL season show he does not have a knack for taking a large amount of penalties.

As seen in Barrie and at times during the World Junior Championships, Pearson's play complements that of Scheifele and thus the chemistry between the Colts top line centre and winger throughout the season.

With Pearson finally finding his offensive stride in 2011-12, it is no wonder how Scheifele's points per game clip raised from 1.13 to 1.31 this past season.

Despite the attractiveness of another Colt - especially one who has played with two other Jets picks - there could be the advantage that teams may be wary of his season ending injury limiting his progress into this next OHL season.

If not, the Jets will need to trade up to acquire the pick to grab Pearson in the late first round or perhaps he would drop down into the early second round for the Jets second round pick.

Whatever may come, the case must be heard for the Jets possibility of drafting a Colt for the third straight draft year.

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